I’m not dead.

I’m not sure if anyone truly cares or actually “keeps up” with my blog, but for those of you that do (whaddup, mom!) you may have noticed I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus.

The reason is threefold.

  1. My phone does NOT take pictures anymore! Ok, that’s kind of a lie, but it only saves about 5 pics at a time, then says I have no room left on my phone when I know for a fact I have plenty. You see, I am not an app person, I barely have any music on my phone, and I literally have 3 pictures saved to it. Sadly, I think this old fashioned gal needs a new phone. ANYWAY, I’ve been really wanting to up my blogging game, so in lieu of my phone’s demise, I bought a fancy shmancy camera to take food (and life…but mostly food) pictures with wooo!
  2. With this focus on upping my blogging game, I’ve decided to either revamp or completely start my blog from scratch. I’ve recently made some pretty significant life changes and I really want my blog to be something that reflects that. Although my past issues surrounding food and body image have definitely shaped who I am both as a person and a cook, I’m not sure I want it to be a part of my blogging life anymore. PLUS, with a fancy new camera, I GOTTA have a fancy new blog, right? We’ll see…
  3. What is this life change I’m speaking of?? Well, yesterday I put in my two weeks at my oppressive corporate job and landed a position as an Assistant Pastry Chef! Though I am not a baker at heart and prefer cooking stove top, I’ve always wanted to learn the art and now I have the opportunity. Unfortunately, the bakery I will be working at is not vegan, but I am so stoked to vegan-ize the recipes and craft I learn to take my cooking game up a notch.

While writing has always been and always will remain one of my life’s passions, writing for a marketing company 9-5 under florescent lights in a cubicle pretty much sucked all of my creativity and love for my craft dry. The office life has never been for me, and I’ve been wanting to delve into the world of cooking professionally for a while now and finally found the guts to change my life for the better.

Yes, I will be taking a pay cut.

Yes, my hours start at 4 in the morning.

Yes, I will most likely have to work weekends.

But money means shit to me, I am an early bird, and weekends are just days in a week…that’s it.

And although I have to work the next 14 days straight between finishing out my old job and training for my new one, I am elated.

While this year has been one filled with tremendous happiness, I have found myself crying simply from the thought of going to work. I have had countless “is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?!” thoughts and feelings of general oppression just from realizing I have to work for the rest of my life… that we all do.

If I had it my way, I would spend my days exploring the world, helping animals, cooking beautiful meals for the people I love, and living off the land.

Maybe someday this will be a reality, but for now, I just have to try and shape my life into its best self.

This took some evaluating and some risk, but I am confident it will pay off.

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New Paltz Challenge Half-Marathon Recap!

Half-marathons are my shit.

Ever since I ran my first half 3 years ago, I’ve been addicted.

Not just to the challenge of race day, but the training, the pride, the dedication, the discipline, the mothafuckin’ free food post-race, the unparalleled sense of accomplishment and disbelief when the legs I berate for not being good enough carry me swiftly across the finish line.

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                                                                           all the mothafuckin’ food.

My deep devotion for the half-marathon game is shared with my number one running bud: my dad. But, since he injured his achilles and hasn’t been able to train, I ran my first solo half this past weekend…ironically, it was on Father’s Day!

Me & Pa, post-race

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The three best things about this half?

  • It’s a true blue trail run on my home turf in New Paltz, NY on my absolute favorite woodland trail
  • It’s small and the course is flat
  • It’s incredibly beautiful

For this year’s New Paltz challenge, mother nature played a nasty trick on me. From the moment I went to sleep on Saturday night to the moment the gun went off at start time, it was pouring. Truly, pouring.

Now, since the race is entirely on a rail trail, rain basically demolishes the gravel and dirt, turning the whole length of the race into a virtual muddy swamp.

I went into this race absolutely PUMPED and 100 percent confident that I would smash my current half PR of 1 hour, 56 seconds.

The minute I got on that trail, I threw the possibility of a new PR out the rain soaked window.

Most of the race, I was ankle deep in mud, or calf deep in puddles. From my heavy, drenched sneakers to the mud particles in my eyes and under my fingernails, and not to mention the neverending stream of water flowing down my face, every minute of this race was a challenge.

But ya know what? It was fucking fun.

Screw PR’s, screw finding my stride, and screw passing every lagging person I can. I ran my ass off while being tested by the elements and still managed to finish in under 2 hours.

By the time I crossed the finish line, I was about to puke from the enormous effort of simply picking my abnormally heavy feet up and putting them down but I smiled through it cause I was, and still am, proud of myself. Not for still managing to get a pretty decent time, but for not giving a fuck about it when I was chasing the rain.

Running the most challenging race on my home town course reminded me why I love to run…it makes me remember how incredible I am, what my body and mind are capable of when they work together, and above all, it always get me where I want to go in every way.

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Weekend Recap: My First 10K!

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYBODY!

And no, I’m not wishing that sarcastically, I really mean it, it’s a glorious day! Here in Rochester the sun is shining, the wind is only blowing a tiny bit (which is a friggin’ miracle here), and it’s almost 80 degrees!

I woke up this morning with a sunburn on the tip of my nose and my tank top laid out for work today and it instantly brought a smile to my face and made me ready to put my blissfully exciting weekend in the books and get ready for another excellent week.

This post is the “books” I’m putting my weekend in, so lemme just start off by saying that I finally ran my first 10k race yesterday in Ithaca!

Although I’ve completed 4 half-marathons, I’ve never run a “normal” distance race! In the spirit of spring beginning and my happy season of running from April-Novemeber, I decided I’d sign up for a race every month until December!

The Skunk Cabbage Classic in Ithaca started my monthly race goal off with a bang! I finished in 51 minutes, 56 seconds, beating my goal time by over 3 minutes!

No headphones were allowed and the course was kinda hilly (helloooo, Ithaca hills anyone??) but I managed to kick ass and had such a great time before and after the race.

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My dad drove up from down home with my Gigi (grandma) to meet Collin and I at the Cornell campus where the race began.

Col and I drove to Ithaca Saturday morning and spent the day there exploring and eating vegan burritos and delicious Thai food. The weather was absolute shit Saturday, so I was kind of worried race day would follow suit, but we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and the day was literally perfection (hence the sunburn on my nose this morning).

The course took us along rolling farmland and even brought us next to a pheasant farm (didn’t want to think about why pheasant farms are even a thing…) and even hugged the lake a tiny bit. It was such a scenic course ideal for my first race without music.

I started way up front to keep myself motivated by those faster than me, and my tactic worked! I picked a girl whose stride I admired and stayed right behind her the whole time, pushing myself hard the whole way.

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Post race (after I snagged as many free bagels and bananas as I could carry from the stadium), we went to brunch at Stella’s which was actually a huge disappointment! They had a few vegan options, so I got quinoa oatmeal and a root vegetable hash. My oatmeal was literally a bowl of quinoa with apples on it, and while my hash was good, out food took 45 minutes to get out!

Even though it wasn’t the most pleasant brunch in history, we did have such a sweet time goofing off and I was still experiencing my runner’s high…plus all of the coffee I drank while waiting the 45 minutes for my food. Needless to say, I was off the walls in the best way.

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Post-brunch, we stopped at Green Star, the most amazing health food store known to man to get some treats (I got a vegan fruit and oat bar) and then made our way to the Ithaca Beer Co. Brewery!

I got a flight for a little variety, and my dad, Gigi, Collin and I sat outside at a picnic table surrounded by a golden field, hens roaming around, and customers playing frisbee, drinkin’ brews and basking in the sun’s glory. I cannot wait to take another trip there once summer rolls around.

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Before we drove home, we stopped at Cayuga Lake to skip some rocks and take in my favorite view of all time: any body of water, anywhere.

This weekend I realized just how far I’ve come with my running…how many incredible places it has taken me, both within and outside of myself and I truly felt completely connected and grateful for this body that has taken such a beating from me and my outrageous expectations of it.

My body is incredible in every way…my body is my hero and I am so proud of her and all that she does.

It was also a weekend I never thought would come: the first true weekend of Spring weather where hopes are high, everyone is outside grasping at the sun they thought would never show its face again, and PLAYING which I try to do every day.

So, now that my weekend is in the books, on to half-marathon training my my June 21st trail half and a week of (hopefully) sunshine.

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How to love being alone

Back in my high school hay days, I made sure I was constantly surrounded by people.

Whether I was hanging out with my friends, which was basically 90% of the time, at home around my family, or falling asleep on the couch with the TV blaring, I made sure to always have stimuli at close hand.

I enjoyed my alone time, don’t get me wrong, but only for short bursts of time when I had completely drained myself between school, friends, soccer, work, parents, ect.

I would take a bath to enjoy time alone, but the minute the towel hit the floor, I was hopping off to my next engagement.

When I was alone, I was anxious that I was missing out on something, and scared that I would delve into the frightening yet familiar dark corners of my mind. I thought that I constantly needed people around me to keep me sane, distract me from my demons, and keep my incessant fear of “missing out” at bay.

I adore my best friends and would never trade the obnoxious amount of time we all used to spend together for anything, especially now that we live hours apart, but when I look back on it, I think I would have began to better my life quite a bit sooner if I had stopped being such a coward when faced with my own reflection.

After years of struggling with disordered eating, body image, and self-esteem, coupled with depression I fight to keep under control every day, it has been a grueling, uphill battle getting to know, love, and spend time with myself…just myself, and love every single second of it.

Below are some tips on how I became my best friend and someone I genuinely love spending time with!

  • PLAN OUT YOUR BFF DAY WITH YOURSELF! Cook yourself an incredible breakfast, blast your favorite music while you clean/organize your personal space, take a walk to get some coffee, go get a manicure if that’s what you’re into, go grocery shopping and stock your fridge with food that loves you back. Whatever your perfect, stress-free day entails, enjoy it with yourself and for yourself!
  • START A PROJECT! As a knitter/cross stitcher/wannabe gardener, I LOVE projects. I love setting goals and reaching them, getting my hands dirty, making something out of nothing, enriching my life with beauty from my own hands. Starting a project will get your creativity flowing, challenge you, and give you a personal goal that is meant to make you proud of you!
  • CREATE AN EXERCISE ROUTINE! Shocker alert, I LOVE exercise. Yes, I’ll admit, some days I drag myself to the gym or make myself get out on the trail and run when I really don’t want to, but most of the time I sincerely love exercise. Having an exercise routine is a great way to challenge and bond with both your mind and your body, and not only keeps you healthy, it keeps your whole life in shape! As an avid runner for the past three years, I’ve shaped a body I am proud of, because it came from hard work, sweat, and perseverance, and can kick past me’s ass with no problem! I have an endless reserve of energy, am sharper and more alert than ever, and my stamina is pretty much that of a cheetah.
  • GO ON A SOLO PICNIC! Last summer when I first moved to Rochester, I was hours away from my friends and family, worked on a fishing boat where I interacted solely with the captain and no one else, and was adjusting to life out of college….I was a friggin’ mess. One day when I was feeling particularly blue and could not for the life of me stop feeling sorry for myself, I decided to enjoy the gorgeous day outside my window and go on a picnic, just me myself and I. Let me tell ya, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, PERIOD. I brought a lunch, blanket, and book, and ate at the park with only the sounds of birds around me, read in peace while smelling fresh air, and sunbathed until I fell asleep and woke up with some extra freckles! I left the park that day with a serene smile on my face and calm in my heart knowing that life really isn’t out to get me, and hangin’ with myself is the most satisfying thing there is.

In today’s society, being alone is frowned upon, gawked at, and basically shunned.

Well, fuck that. Learning not only to be alone, but to absolutely love and cherish the time you spend with yourself is, to me, one of the most important life lessons any of us can (and should) learn.

Get to know and love yourself and plan some you time NOW!

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Current few of my favorite things

As we leave winter (or at least try to) and enter Spring, I always find myself gravitating towards new routines/products and practices.

I’m not sure if it’s the shift in weather, the bounce in my step, or the promise of warmer days, but when I know Spring is upon me, I just love finding improvements in my beauty, exercise, and eating habits.

I’ve been loving a few specific things as of late, and this list will show ya what I’m talking about with the whole “light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to winter” thing.

  • Lemon Water!

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I’ve been know to hate lemon water so much that whenever I get a lemon in my drink at a restaurant, I immediately throw it in the glass of whomever has the pleasure of dining in my company. I used to think it wasn’t refreshing, never quenched my thirst, and was all around gross. But, my skin has been having a hell of a winter in its own right, and I’ve been desperate to stop the cystic breakouts around my mouth.

I eat right, I exercise, I use only all natural products, and still nothing was working. After reading article after article, trying cinnamon masks, new cleansers, and no cleaners at all, I’ve started drinking 1 litre of lemon water immediately upon waking up, and at least 1 more litre of it after work (along with the other million cups of regular water I always down) and what do ya know, my face has been clearer during the past few days than it has been in weeks!

I still do not enjoy the taste, but I do have a jar of lemon, ginger, and rosemary water infusing in the fridge that will hopefully make my morning elixir more my style!

  • Vegan Bowls! 
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My Mediterranean grain and veg bowl

I swear I could eat rice, veg, and beans at every meal and never get tired of any of them. With endless pairings, so many combination options, and sauce ideas, vegan bowls are my go-to dinners and lunches when I want to have just about everything in my fridge.

The one above is what I whipped up for dinner last night. It’s a Mediterranean bowl with a lemon-dill tahini dressing. All I did was cook a sweet potato in the microwave, sautee onion, kale, frozen spinach and broccoli, orange bell pepper, and garlic with some olive oil and then glazed with balsamic vinegar. In a small bowl I made a batch of lemon-dill tahini dressing which is just 2 tbsp. tahini, 1 clove minced garlic, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tbsp. white vinegar, 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, and 1/3 cup water. Just whisk it until smooth.

Next, I layered a large bowl with cooked brown rice, added some chickpeas, my sweet potato which I sliced into medallions, and topped with some of the sauteed veg and tahini dressing! You could also add pumpkin or sunflower seeds for extra crunch.

  • Plants as Therapy by Elvin McDonald

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Since Collin and I have started some of the seedlings for our balcony garden, and have cultivated an impressive collection of indoor plants, I’ve really begun to develop a passion for plants and gardening. Since we plan on having our own organic farm someday, our mini garden is kind of like training for us as plant parents.

When we were browsing in a book store a few weeks ago, I came across this little guy and loved the cover and concept so much I bought it. I would recommend it to anyone who has a passion for plants or living things in general. The author is super quirky and endearing and it’s a great read for when you want a break from the norm!

  • My Future Bike!

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Since my bike was stolen last summer, my dad said he would go halfsies with me for a new one for my birthday this June! I’ll let you in on a secret though….I’m a terrible cyclist! I can run for miles and miles, do burpees until I can’t stand, and swim until I just can’t move anymore, but when it comes to bike riding, I just do not have it and I don’t know why! I’ve been wanting to get into cycling for a while, and it would be so awesome to  have a bike again to get around the city with and go for rides with Collin, as well as another form of an ass-kicking workout!

I’ve joined a spin class at 5:30 AM before work on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and am just so pumped to be getting a new bike to start a new leg of my health journey, and to conquer a different form of sport.

  • Apartment Parties and Soulmates

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Now that we are completely settled and thriving in our new place, Collin and I had our best friends over for a little partayyy to kick off the coming season of balcony grilling, star gazing, and beer sippin’. My best friend from college, Audrey, and my best friend Victoria came up to celebrate. Being around them and Collin’s friends, who I now consider some of my best friends was so wonderful, so comfortable, and just so much fun. I cannot wait for the summer of apartment parties ahead of us.

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Delicious Recap of a Wonderful Weekend

Well, today ends one of those weekends you just wish could last forever. I’m finally settled into my new apartment, with every room decorated exactly how I envisioned it, and it was one of the first full weekends I truly got to enjoy it while continuing to explore my little city.

The weekend started off on a giddy note, with my boss letting us out early at 3:45. I, of course, used this rare extra time after work to cook up an elaborate feast for Collin and I, which I unfortunately failed to photograph. I spent a good two hours in the kitchen in my sweatpants with music blasting, completely in my element, just the way I like.

I made homemade pita bread and falaffel with tatziki sauce made from my homemade coconut yogurt, and I served roasted sweet potatoes with balsamic-lemon tahini sauce on the side.

Once my dinner digested, I went for a sunset two mile run just to get my blood pumping and some sun on my face, and then made Col and I some banana nice cream sundaes…and fell asleep at 9:30. What can I say, I like to get a good night’s sleep and really enjoy having no plans on Friday nights.

On Saturday, Collin and I had a whole day and night full of Rochester fun.

I signed up for a World Gym membership, so I hit the gym for an intense five miles on the treadmill (I know I’m weird, I actually enjoy the treadmill and the gym atmosphere for gettin’ shit done).

We got lunch at the new vegan French bistro right on East Ave that I’m obsessed with, Vive, and got this cheese plate.

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Left to Right: Garlic grilled house-made baguette, figs and candied pecans with a balsamic reduction, Boursin cheese, Brie, and Blue cheese.

If I could put into words how incredible this cheese plate is, I would, but I do not believe it’s possible to do this justice. Not only are these the best vegan cheeses I’ve ever had, they are all hands down the best cheeses I’ve ever had, period.

My favorite was the blue, but it was only by a slight margin since they were all so delicious. Not to be upstaged, the bread was to die for with a salty crunch, a moist middle, and an unmistakable garlicky bite, and the fig-pecan-balsamic combo was just to die for; it complimented the salty cheese and moist bread perfectly.

As you can tell from my gushing, this shit is LEGIT, go to Vive ASAP if you’re going to be in Rochester any time soon, vegan or not!

Anyway, now that I’m trailing drool all over my keyboard, I shall commence my recap.

After lunch we saw a documentary called “Walking Under Water,” a part of Rochester’s Greentopia Festival, which screens sustainability documentaries. It was about a fishing culture in Borneo whose way of life is slowly vanishing thanks to tourism and Western influence. It was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.

To end our night, we were going to check out Cheshire, Rochester’s self-proclaimed speakeasy, but we just weren’t feeling it. It was too small, too packed, and filled with bro-y douche bags who looked like guys I went to college with…not what I was looking for. So, instead, we headed to the public market area and tried out Cure. Cure doubles as a second location of Java’s coffee shop during the day, and then transforms into a restaurant/bar on the weekends!

Cure is easily my new favorite bar in the city. We pulled into the parking lot to find we were the only car except for the fleet of food delivery trucks, and the only light around was the subtle glow of the red sign in Cure’s window. When we walked in, we were so so pleasantly surprised. Beautiful wooden tables, candles everywhere, light bulbs surrounded by beautiful metal spheres hanging from the ceiling, and a bar complete with an impressive liquor collection.

At the bar, we learned that Saturdays are “Booze your adventure” night. Basically, you’re given a list of liquors, attitudes, and aspects to choose, and the bartender will make you a unique drink based on your choices! For example, I chose “Strong, Gin, and Spice” and received a rosemary-infused, gin fizz drink that was easily the best cocktail I’ve ever had.

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Here she is, folks.

We spent a few hours at the bar just talking about everything and enjoying the fancy/hip ambiance. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Today, I closed out the weekend by having one of my Sunday prep days. After I hit the gym, I ventured to Trader Joe’s and picked up some goodz. After a few hours crafting/jamming out in the kitchen this afternoon, I made two rice and veg bowls and two pita sandwiches with roasted eggplant and spinach for lunches for this week; portioned out edamame, carrots, and hummus for snacks; juiced one carrot, apple, ginger juice and one celery, apple, parsley, kale juice for the week; and made two jars’ worth of overnight oats for early workout mornings before work. I made all of this goodness while cooking up my very first batch of Vietnamese Pho! Here’s a shot of my stocked and prepped fridge….one of my favorite sights, hehe.

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As you all know, I love to truly take advantage of every moment of my weekends, and this one was filled with my very favorite ways to do that.

From mouthwatering food, to discovering new places, to runs, and lots of time well spent in the kitchen, I sit on my couch surrounded by my candles, plants, and pillows content, relaxed, and ready for the week ahead.

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Dear Universe,

Thank you for bestowing this life upon me; this life so pregnant with pain, guilt, loathing, and grief; this life so bursting with beauty, wonder, magic, and love.

Thank you for bringing me into a world where I can rest my head on a pillow as I drift off to sleep every night, the heat turned up or down to my chosen comfort.

Thank you for blessing me with parents who love me, who hug me, who have watched me grow with pride, with adoration in their eyes, who tried to ground me when I stole booze and slept at my boyfriend’s house. Thank you for parents who cared if I had sex too early, rather than counting the days until I come of age before selling me to make end’s meet.

Thank you for running water so I can read in the bath, soaking my feet full of blisters from runs up, down, and around the safe streets surrounding my cozy abode.

Thank you for locking this brain into my head, this brain that knows no bounds, runs barefoot through the world seeking answers to every question, knocking on doors of possibility, thinking so hard, too hard, not hard enough.

Thank you for the 9-5 job I secured after 3.5 years of higher education. Thank you for giving me the voice that pulses through my pen, through my fingertips, through the keyboard, through my tongue, and out my mouth.

Thank you for making me a woman in America, a woman free from the cage of child prostitution, a woman capable of choice, of change, of growth, of necessary escape. Thank you for giving me the chance to take advantage of my valued place in the world, thank you for making me grateful enough to take notice of my coincidental luck.

Because I could have been a child of a brothel, a baby girl with one path and one path only. I could have been up at 4 am this morning fetching water for a neighbor, getting slapped by my mother, getting fucked by a drunken man who paid to feel powerful by being on top of me.

I could be begging for money to feed my family, accepting that the world is only meant for darkness, anguish, and torture. I could be surrendering any possibility of fulfilling any scrap of a dream to waiting my turn for the merry-go-round of ancestral prostitution.

So I thank you, universe, for the man I come home to every night who kisses my hands and plays with my hair, who knows how to order my take out food.

I thank you for my childhood, preserving my innocence past the age of 10, placing me in the valley of the tiny mountains surrounding my home, with roads stretching far in each direction, calling me to venture down the path of everything unknown.

Thank you for this life I want to keep living, thank you for not making me merely survive.

*I suggest everybody watch “Born Into Brothels,” a heartbreaking 2004 documentary that has brought me to my knees. Be thankful, be present, be positive, and remember how lucky you are.

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